Feminism and the Canadian Military
Some years ago, the Canadian military was held up to much public scrutiny for failing to meet its gender and race targets. Having tried and been unable to bring women to 25% of military personnel, and worried that the Canadian Human Rights Commission might impose conditions on the Forces to meet these targets (!), the Defense Department requested of the Canadian government that the gender target be reduced to 17.6% as a more manageable goal. The politically correct press immediately voiced an aggrieved protest.
The Huffington Post’s Rachel Decoste called the statement by the Canadian Forces “a stunning admission of failure,” and claimed as if clinching the argument that “the Canadian Forces are essentially giving up on including the majority of the people they claim to be defending.” Note the snideness of that phrase “claim to be defending”—as if the mostly rural and small-town white men who died in Afghanistan didn’t really deserve our gratitude because not enough women like Decoste were encouraged to join up. Decoste assumed that it is inarguably a good thing that a military force be representative of the people it “claims to be defending.” The argument might be applied in a field like teaching, where it may be good for kids, other things being equal, to have teachers who are representative of the national population. But in the military? It’s nonsense.
There are all sorts of people who are not represented in the Canadian military: the very old, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and a lot of weaklings like me who can’t bear the sight of blood and who couldn’t carry a fallen soldier from the battlefield or engage with enemy combatants if my life depended on it. Defending a population has nothing to do with representing that population in the ranks, and it would be disastrous if it did. More on this later.
Decoste’s bedrock assumption, like that of many other feminist commentators, was that the Canadian military was keeping a lot of qualified and willing women out of its ranks, mainly by its failure to clean up the supposedly rampant problem of sexual harassment and abuse that made the military so unwelcoming (of course, these are the same people who claim that university campuses are insidious rape cultures, and that sure hasn’t kept female students away). The question of women’s fitness for the military is never raised, though from any logical point of view it would seem unavoidable. Women comprise roughly 14% of the Canadian military, and of these only a very small fraction are in combat roles. In other words, in the area that most fundamentally reflects the Armed Forces’ purpose to defend and protect Canadians, women account for only a tiny percentage. A mere glance at the number of casualties in the Afghanistan conflict points up the reality of what Lacoste and her feminist friends would call patriarchal privilege. Male deaths in combat vastly outnumber those of women. Of the 158 Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, only 3 of them, or less than 2%, were female. Why are women so poorly represented on the front lines? Because most women can’t do the job, don’t want to do the job, and in cases where they can do it, can’t do it as well as men.
In 2012, a Postmedia report tried to deny this fact, arguing that Canadian women were taking an equal role in the Afghan conflict. The evidence brought forward for this preposterous claim was the death of Captain Nichola Goddard, killed in a Taliban ambush, the first Canadian female soldier killed in a combat role. Make no mistake: I honor Nichola Goddard’s sacrifice. She is a more courageous woman than I —and I admire her love for her country and her service. But it still has to be said: a woman getting killed on the battlefield proves nothing about women’s military ability overall despite the exaggerated statement that “The Afghan mission proved, once and for all, that women can tackle any job as well as their male counterparts.”
The article went on to admit that more military women than men suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, but the author explained these away as owing to the “additional pressure” women experienced in the military “due to their minority status and stereotyping.” We are to believe that the stress of stereotyping is far worse than that of being targeted by an enemy trying to kill you.
Well, it wasn’t true, and an American study has demonstrated a big disparity in women’s and men’s battlefield ability. The U.S. Marine Corps examined over a year the impact of female integration on combat readiness and found conclusively that women cannot match male performance. Male units were faster, more effective, and able to evacuate casualties in less time. Overall, the study concluded, “all-male squads performed better than mixed groups in 69 percent of the tasks evaluated.” Women performed notably less well in their use of every individual weapon system. In addition, women had higher injury rates than men.
In terms of women’s own well-being, as well as the overall effectiveness of the fighting force, its ability to kill enemies and save wounded comrades, the study showed that the presence of women in combat units has a negative impact.
This isn’t about an ideal of egalitarianism, a desire to have a military force that looks like the wider population. This is the serious business of not putting military personnel in harm’s way, and about winning rather than losing wars.
The fact that ability isn’t the first thing everybody mentions when discussing women in the armed forces demonstrates how deeply the rot of feminist egalitarianism has eaten into the fabric of our society.
I for one don’t want to live in an egalitarian society. I want to live in a merit-based society. I want exceptional women to have the chance to succeed, to contribute their gifts. But I do not want a fake equality established by government dictate, and I am tired of hearing from women and their feminist allies about how we have to do more to make sure women succeed.
Men have always paid the bigger price and contributed more as a class to the protection and technological development of civilization. And in the tolerant, humane society we created in the west, men often allowed women to forget that fact. It is appropriate and just for women to remember it.